The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.
“Who, and what are you?” Scrooge demanded.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
“Long Past?” inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.
“No. Your past.”[1]

In my last post I began to describe some of my spiritual journey before I began to train for ordination. Part of the point of theological college is to prepare you for serving in the church (however that is understood within the tradition you are from) by broadening and challenging your theological perspectives. My college experience was no exception, although perhaps not in the ways one might assume.

I suppose the area of my theology that would most easily have been challenged was my commitment to Charismatic doctrine and practice. Actually, the opposite happened – I remain a convinced Charismatic, believing in the present availability of the Spirit’s gifts, an experiential relationship with God, and God’s desire to fill, or baptise, every Christian in and with the Spirit. Indeed, the vibrancy, enthusiasm and effectiveness of my Pentecostal colleagues encouraged me to be open to physical responses to the Spirit’s presence that I would previously have dismissed.[2]

At the same time, however, I was aware that I was looking for a theological and community grounding for my ministry. I experimented with Open Theism and High Calvinism (not at the same time) and found both unsatisfactory on systematic, exegetical and pastoral grounds. I would certainly not dismiss anyone who held to either perspective but I just could not agree. I read into Anabaptist thought and benefited hugely from the writings of John Wesley. Throughout it all, however, I sensed that there had to be something deeper than the arguments of the 16th Century and beyond and I wondered if the various camps I had visited were even asking the right questions.

It was as if there was something there that I couldn’t remember, the ghost of a past and the possibility of the future that seemed just out of sight, half-recognised but not fully spoken about. To find a future, I first needed to encounter the past.

[1] Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (London: Bradbury & Evans, 1858), p.27.

[2] For a good contemporary theological introduction to this wing of the church, I recommend Craig S Keener, Gift and Giver: The Holy Spirit for Today (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001).